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The I Know What You Did Last Summer Trilogy

I Know What You Did Last Summer (June 21/09)

Screenwriter Kevin Williamson's follow-up to Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer ultimately comes off as a prototypical teen slasher that unapologetically emphasizes many of the conventions and clichés lampooned within his 1996 debut. The movie follows four friends (Jennifer Love Hewitt's Julie, Sarah Michelle Gellar's Helen, Ryan Phillippe's Barry, and Freddie Prinze Jr's Ray) as they accidentally strike (and kill) a stranger during a post-party joyride, with the quartet's decision to hide the body coming back to haunt to them one year later - as they're methodically stalked by a slicker-wearing psycho with a penchant for offing his victims with an ice hook. Despite its myriad of exceedingly generic qualities, I Know What You Did Last Summer generally manages to sustain the viewer's interest for the duration of its well-paced running time - with director Jim Gillespie's stylish visuals and the uniformly charismatic performances initially compensating for the storyline's almost pervasively familiar nature. There inevitably reaches a point, however, at which the undeniably repetitive atmosphere - coupled with the inclusion of head-scratchingly tame kill sequences - becomes more than the thinly-plotted structure can bear, and the movie subsequently transforms from a surprisingly watchable thriller into a tedious, distinctly by-the-numbers slasher flick. The final product is a disappointingly uneven effort that may be a cut above its teen-friendly brethren - the clever references to Halloween and Psycho are alone evidence of this - yet it's impossible not to have expected something more than just a passable time-waster given the caliber of Williamson's first screenplay.

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I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (June 21/09)

As mindlessly engaging as its predecessor, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer picks up a year later and follows Julie James (Jennifer Love Hewitt) as she embarks on a weekend getaway to the Bahamas with three friends (Brandy Norwood's Karla, Mekhi Phifer's Tyrell, and Matthew Settle's Will) - with trouble ensuing as the first film's maniacal fisherman arrives on the scene and immediately starts carving up everyone in sight (ie even the maid is brutally dispatched). The unapologetically thin nature of the movie's premise is ultimately not quite as problematic as one might've anticipated, as director Danny Cannon - working from Trey Callaway's screenplay - generally keeps things moving at a brisk clip and punctuates the proceedings with a number of appreciatively brutal instances of gore (which is undoubtedly an improvement over the original film's relatively chaste sensibilities). There's also little doubt that the quirky supporting cast goes a long way towards keeping things interesting, with folks like Jeffrey Combs, Jennifer Esposito, and Jack Black offering up expectedly compelling (yet all-too-brief) performances from the periphery of the proceedings. The movie's stagnant midsection ensures that one's interest slowly but surely starts to dwindle, however, and it does become awfully difficult to work up any sympathy for the characters' increasingly perilous predicament. It's a vibe that effectively cements I Still Know What You Did Last Summer's place as an entertainingly disposable endeavor, although - to be fair - one's appreciation for the film is probably directly related to one's appreciation of the original (ie if you liked that one...)

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I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer (June 22/09)

Aggressively dull and downright unwatchable, I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer forces the viewer to regard its predecessors in an entirely new light - as the film's relentless incompetence ensures that I Know What You Did Last Summer and I Still Know What You Did Last Summer can't help but come off as Hitchcockian masterpieces by comparison. The film - which is essentially a remake of the 1997 original - follows a group of friends (including Brooke Nevin's Amber and Torrey DeVitto's Zoe) as they inadvertently contribute to the death of one of their own after a prank goes horribly wrong, with the remainder of the proceedings picking up a year later and detailing the gangs' efforts at dodging an increasingly persistent maniac clad in the series' iconic fisherman's outfit. Director Sylvain White - working from a script by Michael D. Weiss - has infused I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer with hopelessly low-rent visuals that play an instrumental role in cultivating an atmosphere of worthlessness, as the filmmaker's all-too-frequent reliance on ostentatious editorial tricks effectively eliminates any trace of suspense from the movie's scarce kill sequences. The woefully deliberate pace with which the story unfolds - the first death doesn't come until around the halfway mark - is exacerbated by the uniformly bland performances, with the film's various actors essentially forced to portray carbon copies of the original's characters (ie much like Jennifer Love Hewitt's Julie, Nevin's Amber is initially reluctant to keep the secret). Add to that an eye-rollingly silly supernatural explanation for the killer's motivations and you've got a recipe for a bottom-of-the-barrel exercise in needlessness, and one can only hope that the film marks the end of the deranged, slicker-wearing fisherman's cinematic exploits.

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© David Nusair